After seizing a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the crucial Strait of Hormuz and enriching uranium up to 20% at an underground facility, Iran further escalated tensions in the Middle East between Tehran and the West on Monday.

The possible enrichment announcement came after the rising fear that Tehran had seized the oil tanker MT hankuk Chemi.

Iran acknowledged the speculated seizure and alleged that the oil pollution from the said vessel sparked the move.

But hours earlier before the incident, Tehran shared that they are expecting a South Korean diplomat to visit in the next few days to negotiate the release of billions of dollars in its assets that are now frozen in South Korea's capital, Seoul.

The incidents happened amid the heightened tensions between the United States and Iran as the term of US President Donald Trump nears its end, Yahoo! News reported.

During Trump's administration, the US leader unilaterally withdrew from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and set off months of tense episodes, which had increased the strained relations between the two countries.

According to Iran's state television, spokesman Ali Rabiei stated that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had ordered the move to the Fordo facility.

 Iran's decision to start enriching uranium up to 20%purity was made a decade ago and almost triggered an Israeli strike that targeted its nuclear facilities. The said tensions only calmed after the 2015 nuclear deal.

Read also:Super Spreaders: COVID-19 Variant in Several Cities in Northern China

As the plan for the 20% enrichment resume, it is expected that it could see that brinkmanship return as that level of purity is only a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Despite having its own issues of an undeclared nuclear weapons program, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the enrichment decision of Iran and mentioned that it cannot be explained in any way aside from the continuation of realizing its goal in developing a military nuclear program, The Daily Wire reported.

He also added that Israel would not allow Iran to manufacture any nuclear weapon.

Tehran has long remained its nuclear program and stayed peaceful.

According to the United States Department, it continued to assess that Iran has not been and is not currently involved in any key activities linked with any nuclear weapon's design and development since last year.

The move of Iran came following the parliament's decision to pass a bill later approved by a constitutional watchdog. The bill was aimed at raising the enrichment to put pressure on Europe into providing sanctions relief.

It also served as pressure ahead of president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. Biden has previously stated and shown his willingness to re-entering the nuclear deal, Fox News reported.

Last week, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that they are planning to take the step, and IAEA responded on Monday that the inspectors from the agency are already monitoring their activities at Fordo and that its director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi made a plan to issue a report to member nations of the United Nations organization later in the day.


Related article: US Navy: New Type Lightweight Torpedo in Development for Naval Vessels Coming Soon